Dinners under 500 calories needn’t be bland or uninspiring; these meals are delicious, quick to prepare and packed with satisfying textures and flavours
Words Helen Brown
Calorie counting is never fun. But if the time between now and your bikini moment is slipping away too quickly, it can be an effective way of keeping those pesky pounds in check. These low calories dinners are quick and incredibly easy to make, even after a busy day in the office. Bold seasoning and vibrant spice mixes makes them hands-down tastier than any salad you will eat. Enjoy!
THAI FRIED PRAWN & PINEAPPLE RICE
2 tsp sunflower oil
bunch spring onions, greens and whites separated, both sliced
1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped into small chunks
140g pineapple, chopped into bite-sized chunks
3 tbsp Thai green curry paste
4 tsp light soy sauce, plus extra to serve
300g cooked basmati rice (brown, white or a mix – about 140g uncooked rice)
2 large eggs, beaten
140g frozen peas
225g can bamboo shoots, drained
250g frozen prawns, cooked or raw
2-3 limes, 1 juiced, the rest cut into wedges to serve
handful coriander leaves (optional)
STEP 1 – Heat the oil in a wok or non-stick frying pan and fry the spring onion whites for 2 mins until softened. Stir in the pepper for 1 min, followed by the pineapple for 1 min more, then stir in the green curry paste and soy sauce.
STEP 2 – Add the rice, stir-frying until piping hot, then push the rice to one side of the pan and scramble the eggs on the other side. Stir the peas, bamboo shoots and prawns into the rice and eggs, then heat through for 2 mins until the prawns are hot and the peas tender. STEP 3 – Finally, stir in the spring onion greens, lime juice and coriander, if using. Spoon into bowls and serve with extra lime wedges and soy sauce.
Recipe from bbcgoodfood.com
PISTO CON HUEVOS
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 mixed peppers, chopped into chunks
1 heaped tsp dried oregano a
few thyme sprigs, leaves picked
4 bay leaves
2 courgettes, chopped into chunks
1 aubergine, chopped into chunks
4 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 large eggs
½ small pack parsley, leaves roughly chopped
STEP 1 – Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish or a cast-iron skillet over a low heat. Add the onions and a sprinkle of salt, cover and cook gently for 15 mins, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 mins.
STEP 2 – Next, throw in the peppers and cook over a medium heat, covered, for about 5 mins, stirring every so often, until the peppers are just tender.
STEP 3 – Mix in the oregano, thyme, bay leaves, some black pepper and a little salt, if needed. Tip in the courgettes and aubergine, combine thoroughly, and cook over a medium heat, covered, for 10 mins. Stir in the tomatoes, cover and cook for 20 mins, stirring occasionally.
STEP 4 – Carefully crack the eggs over the pisto – try not to break the yolks. Cook in the sauce on a medium heat for 5-6 mins until the eggs are cooked through but still a little soft, then scatter with parsley before serving.
Recipe from bbcgoodfood.com
SPEEDY CHICKEN BALTI
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion, sliced
400g skinless chicken breast fillets, cut into chunks
4tbsp balti paste
250g new potatoes, halved or quartered if large
100g baby spinach
STEP 1 – Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion and cook for a few mins to soften. Add the chicken and cook for 5 mins.
STEP 2 – Stir in the balti paste, cook for 1 min then add the potatoes and 200ml water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 mins until the chicken is cooked and the potatoes are tender.
STEP 3 – Stir in the spinach until wilted.
SLOW COOKER PAELLA
2 Tbsp olive oil
1½ lb (skinless, boneless) chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
3 tsp smoked paprika
700g short-grain rice (we like arborio)
1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
270ml chicken broth
270ml white wine
4 oz cured chorizo, roughly chopped (about 1 cup) (I found this in the packaged deli meat section)
1 medium onion, diced (about 1½ cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of saffron
1 bunch of chopped parsley for serving
lemon wedges for serving
STEP 1 – Heat oil in large pan.
STEP 2 – Add chicken and sprinkle with half of paprika and season with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer chicken to the slow cooker with a slotted spoon.
STEP 3 – Add rice to pan and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add to slow cooker.
STEP 4 – Add tomatoes, broth, wine, chorizo, onion, garlic and saffron to slow cooker, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
STEP 5 – Cook on high for 2 hours, until rice is soft, and turn off slow cooker. Stir in peas and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve with parsley and lemon wedges.
CHICKEN & LEMONGRASS POACHED CHICKEN WITH LIME RICE
100g ginger (unpeeled), thinly sliced
1 red onion, halved
4 kaffir lime leaves, bruised
1 lemongrass stalk (white part only), halved lengthways
500ml soy sauce
250ml rice wine vinegar
1 bunch coriander, roots scraped and washed, finely chopped, leaves picked
2 long green chillies, halved lengthways, plus extra thinly sliced to serve
Vietnamese mint leaves, Thai basil leaves, bean sprouts and lime wedges, to serve
STEP 1 – Place the chicken, garlic, ginger, onion, kaffir lime, lemongrass, soy, vinegar, coriander root and chilli in a large pan with a lid and add enough cold water to cover.
STEP 2 – Place over high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
STEP 3 – Set aside 1 1/2 cups (375ml) cooking liquid for rice, then cover pan and set aside for 1 hour or until the chicken is cooked through.
STEP 4 – Meanwhile, for the lemongrass rice, place the rice, reserved cooking liquid and 625ml water in a saucepan with a lid.
STEP 5 – Add lemongrass, ginger and lime leaves, then place over high heat and bring to the boil. Cover, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 35-40 minutes until rice is tender. Set aside, covered, for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
STEP 6 – Remove chicken from stock and cut into pieces. Serve on rice with chilli, reserved coriander leaves, Vietnamese mint, Thai basil, bean sprouts and lime wedges.
TANDOORI LAMB STEAKS WITH CHILLI-SPIKED SLAW
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp tandoori masala spice mix
½ tsp ground cumin
100 g plus 4 tbsp of fat-free yogurt
1 lemon, juiced and zested
4 lamb leg steaks (about 100g each), trimmed of all fat
A handful of mint of leaves, chopped
1 red pepper, finely sliced
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
¼ red cabbage, finely sliced
2 spring onions, shredded
1-2 red chilli, seeded and finely diced
STEP 1 – Make the marinade for the lamb by mixing the garlic, ginger, spices, 100g yogurt, half the lemon juice and some seasoning. Pour over the lamb steaks and rub in well. Cover and chill for 2 hours or overnight if you can.
STEP 2 – To make the slaw, toss all the ingredients together with some seasoning and a good squeeze of the remaining lemon. Mix the 4 tbsp yogurt with the mint, a little lemon zest and season.
STEP 3 – Heat a griddle pan or the BBQ to hot. Remove the steaks from the marinade, letting any excess drip off. Char the lamb for 4 minutes on each side, or longer if you like. Serve with the chilli slaw and mint yogurt.
Recipe from olivemagazine.com
MUSHROOM & LENTIL PAPPARDELLE BOLOGNESE
2 cloves of garlic
1 stick of celery
2 fresh bay leaves
½ a bunch of fresh thyme
4 large portobello mushrooms
100 g dried Puy lentils
2 tablespoons tomato purée
400 ml organic vegetable stock
1 x 400 g tin of plum tomatoes
350 g dried pappardelle
½ a bunch of fresh baby basil
STEP 1 – Peel the carrot, onion and garlic, trim the celery and roughly chop. Pulse it all in a food processor, until finely chopped.
STEP 2 – Heat a good splash of oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chopped veg mixture and bay leaves, pick in the thyme leaves and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes or until soft.
STEP 3 – Blitz the mushrooms in the food processor until finely chopped. Add to the pan and cook for 3 minutes, until softened. Stir in the lentils, tomato purée and stock, and squish in the plum tomatoes.
STEP 4 – Season, reduce the heat to low and pop a lid on. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
STEP 5 – When the lentils are almost done, cook the pappardelle according to the packet instructions, until al dente.
STEP 6 – Drain the pasta and stir it through the bolognese sauce. Pick the basil leaves and sprinkle over the bolognese with a good grating of Parmesan to serve.
Recipe from jamieoliver.com
HEALTHIER BEEF BOURGUIGNON
3 tbsp plain flour, well seasoned
500g extra-lean diced braising steak
18 baby onions or shallots, peeled
4 carrots, peeled and diced
250g chestnut mushrooms, halved
500ml red wine
400ml beef stock
2 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
new or mashed potatoes to serve
STEP 1 – Heat the oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3. Sprinkle the flour over the beef, and toss well. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large casserole dish and fry the beef in batches until browned. Drain on kitchen paper.
STEP 2 – Add the onions, carrots and mushrooms to the oil, and fry for 10 minutes until the onions are turning golden and the carrots have softened. Add a splash of wine and stir to loosen the crisp bits at the bottom of the pan, before adding the drained beef pieces, the stock, herbs and the rest of the wine.
STEP 3 – Put on a tight-fitting lid with a layer of tin foil underneath the lid. Cook for 2 hours until the beef is tender and add seasoning if needed.
STEP 4 – Remove the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon, and simmer the sauce on the hob to reduce and thicken it.
STEP 5 – Return the meat and veg to the pan and gently re-heat. Scatter over the parsley and serve with new or mashed potatoes.
Recipe from olivemagazine.com